My Lords, I reassure the House that I do not seek to oppose the passing of the Bill although it is worth remarking that we are only three years off the 50th anniversary of the timely decision by Barbara Castle during the Hull North by-election to agree to the building of the bridge.
I take the opportunity of the Chairman of Committees being at the Dispatch Box to ask him about the arrangements for obtaining copies of Scotland’s Future, the document published yesterday by the Scottish Government. My understanding is that because it is a Scottish government document the arrangements are that there is one copy in the Library of this House and one copy in the Library of the Commons. I understand why the Scottish Government might not want your Lordships to consider all the pages of the full document, but to expect noble Lords to download it will cause great concern and overtime among our rather lowly and inadequate printers. Will the Minister arrange for noble Lords to receive copies when they wish to have one?
My Lords, further to the matter raised by my noble friend Lord Hunt, this is a very serious matter. The Scottish Government are proceeding as if this so-called White Paper is of no concern to the people of the rest of the United Kingdom—indeed, of no concern to this Parliament—yet constitutional matters are still reserved to this Parliament. Thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, next Thursday we are going to have a debate of only an hour to discuss an astonishing unilateral declaration by the Scottish Government of the date of independence, assuming that this matter is going to go through without any difficulty. Much more is needed than this and I am glad that, as well as the Chairman of Committees, the Leader of the House, the Chief Whip and the Deputy Leader of the House, who is very knowledgeable on these matters, are in their places.
I suggest that, as well as what my noble friend has suggested, every Member of this House should be provided with a copy of this document. It is relevant to us and we should be considering it. Further, there should be a Statement in this House and in the other House of the implications of this document for the rest of the United Kingdom and, as well as the one-hour debate that the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, has secured, there ought to be a full day’s debate in government time so that we can discuss the implications. If not, we are going to sleep-walk into the break-up of the United Kingdom. If that is what other noble Members want, it is certainly not what I want and I hope that we will do something about it.
I could just say yes, but let me say a little more. The future of the United Kingdom is clearly a constitutional matter. The constitution, under the Scotland Act 1998, is a reserved matter, so the publication and the contents of the guide are clearly a matter of legitimate interest to all Members of this House but technically, because it is a Scottish government publication, the noble Lord is right: it is not deposited in the Printed Paper Office and the Scottish Government have not made paper copies of the guide available to the PPO. However, photocopies of the abstract of the guide have been in the PPO since yesterday. The PPO will print, on demand, copies of the full 670-page guide for those Members who need one. Members who would like a copy of the full guide should accordingly ask for one from the PPO. However, in the interests of economy, to say nothing of saving quite a few trees, copies of the full guide will also be available for consultation in the Library.
Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.